A firsthand account of two lives that came to tragic ends.
Journalist Orkin (Ground Zero Wars, 2017, etc.) met investigative reporter Mike Ruppert in 2004 at a symposium marking the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and they later moved in together. Ten years later after their first meeting, after Ruppert committed suicide, Orkin began to produce blog entries, compiled in this book, as a way to explain his troubled state of mind. As she frankly states, “This is a flesh and blood, warts-and-all portrait written in the belief that in the end, Mike and his transcendent work and critically important ideas will prevail.” One of the more harrowing sequences involves Ruppert’s self-imposed exile in Venezuela, where he was alarmed by mysterious physical ailments and disillusioned with the country’s “Cuban-style medical system.” Here, the author includes a series of frantic emails, some her own, that effectively capture an escalating sense of confusion and panic. Some readers may be put off by Orkin’s nonstandard capitalization in these exchanges, but overall, this is a minor issue, as is the blog posts’ occasional deviation from chronological order. For instance, there’s a eulogy for Ruppert in the middle of the text and an account of the author’s first meeting with her subject at the very end. The lion’s share of the book recounts the period after Ruppert’s return to the United States, when he lived with the author in Brooklyn Heights in New York City. Readers will enjoy Orkin’s more deliberative style here, featuring solid narration and revealing dialogue, as she tells of how Ruppert’s mental health struggles and painful physical issues tested their relationship; it contrasts sharply with previous, hastily composed correspondence. The book also includes a much shorter work that’s devoted to Orkin’s mother’s life and final months. It opens with the author’s poignant assertion that her parent “did not go gentle into that good night.” Many will identify with the author’s feelings of helplessness and frustration in the face of woefully inadequate health care and social services systems. Her story of the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease may be universal in nature, but the specific details are powerful.
Intimate portraits of everyday heroism and suffering.